We had the good fortune of connecting with Criselle Mesa and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Criselle, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
It’s weird to say, but I feel like my life has always been pushed toward pursuing an artistic and creative career. Ever since I was little, maybe since I was 5 or 6, I could remember my classmates and various adults in my life just amazed at my drawings and little models I would make. Their praise fueled my fire to create even more. And I also want to say I had an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age as well, because I remember not too shortly after realizing my drawings were above average, that I started to try to sell my work to make money. I don’t want to short change my very artistic/creative family either. Both my grandfathers were handy men who had mechanical/creative ways of thinking and fixing things and two of my aunts are artists (one an animator and the other, fine art). And my mom, ever since I was little, would make curtains, fancy photo albums and paint different rooms of the house with different themes. My mom is actually the person who taught me how to crochet when I was 15 and started my love of fiber arts. I believe that because they were already in support of creative careers, that it wasn’t too hard for them to support me in my decision to go for an art degree; though I was originally a business major and switched half way through college to focus on art. It’s not fair to say that I was solely focused on making a living from art when I began working in other industries to support myself through college. But even while I was in school and working part time, I still found time to make items and market and sell my work. And I honestly believe that while in the hospitality industry I honed in on my people skills, which ultimately helped me become a better networker and promoter of my work and talents. There are just so many parts of my life that continuously pushed me to follow my dreams of making a living from my creative ability. It’s in my blood and it’s in my bones, I just knew to go for it.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
There are so many knitters and crocheters out there, at every market, fair, event I do, someone always comes up to me and says, “Oh, my mom crochets beanies,” or “My best friend made me a scarf last Christmas!” What sets me apart from their mom or their best friend is that their mom or bestie is at home and I’m here, at this market, selling my hard work and passion. Ever since I learned to crochet in 2003ish, I began to market my work by making scarves at lunch so people could see what I could do. Classmates would gather around while I worked and they would buy what I was making or custom order pieces for themselves or friends. Guess what, I live in Southern California, you don’t really need a scarf, ever, but people saw what I could do, and they wanted that. Fast forward to college where I worked full time also, and I crocheted during my breaks so coworkers could see me hustling, they also bought from me. And when I do markets now, while I stand there making small talk with potential customers, I’m crocheting or knitting, so they know that it’s me utilizing a talent I’ve honed for almost two decades. It’s hard to stay consistent, and there have been times where I was on a creating hiatus. One of the major times I stopped pursuing this dream of mine was when my husband was deployed by the Marine Corps to Afghanistan. I didn’t realize that after he left that I became depressed and even though my work was flying off the internet shelves, I couldn’t keep up with the demand because my mental health was suffering so greatly. After a diagnosis and then therapy and then eventual return of my husband did I begin to feel good enough to start up again. That seven month blip really put a wrench in the forward trajectory of my business, but after some time and healing I decided to get back at it. It was difficult to get back in the game, and it took about two or three years for me to decided that it was time to start back up with my dream. I felt like there were others who were doing what I was doing but in time I found confidence in myself and my capabilities and just got back out there to pursue my passion. I honestly feel like I’m a lot further along than where I was when I first stopped back in 2011, but there are times where I feel like I could be further along in this creative career if I hadn’t stopped. But I can’t live in regret for too long, it’ll just set me back more.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
A trip to the Long Beach area would consist of a lot of different things! Here are some of my favorites!! 1. Visit the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific – They are close to each other and are great learning experiences. The Queen Mary has lots of historical educational opportunities and if you believe in ghosts, she’s got that. Then the Aquarium is a must! A very educational trip and it’s just fun to look at all the animals in the exhibits. 2. El Dorado Nature Center – There are quarter mile, 1 mile, and 2 mile hiking trail available to do. And the center itself has displays on various animals and some info in the original Tongva people that lived on the land before it was settled by the Spanish. 3. Knotts Berry Farm- Everyone goes to Disneyland, which is cool, but Knotts has amazing roller coasters, a cowboy stunt show, and the fried chicken! If you haven’t had Mrs. Knotts fried chicken and boysenberry pie, you’re life isn’t complete. 4. These are just places to eat – lol – 4a. LV Chinese Food for an authentic Chinese food experience. Great for small or large parties. I had my sons baptism lunch there and they sat all 40 of us. 4b. Cluck and Blaze – Hot chicken! My favorite thing is the Nashville Hot Breakfast Burrito, just typing that made me salivate. 4c. The Hippea – it’s a falafel place that is amazing!!!! They have all kinds of falafel flavors too! 4d. Taqueria off of Redondo and 4th is a small Mexican take out with some seating. But their carne asada tortas and burritos are top notch. 4e. Mink Quan Thai food on Anaheim is I believe better than any other Thai restaurant in Long Beach, hands down. 5. Crafted and the Fish Market in San Pedro – Crafted has local artisans who create and sell their work and some times they have classes! And the fish market has fresh fish and delicious restaurants you can eat said delicious fish!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Two people stand out in supporting me and my dream the most. My mom, Maribel, who taught me how to crochet in the first place and who is always enthusiastic about my work, accomplishments and sales. And my sister, Camille, who helps me promote my work, troubleshoots with me, and who collaborates with me on designs, colors, and even models for me. They have always had my back and never wavered in their support of me and my dream.

Website: www.crisellebelle.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/Crisellebelle
Linkedin: http://linkedin.com/in/criselle-cruz-38156372

Image Credits
Camille Cruz Rocky Mesa